Tiger’s Integrity is Gone. His Commercials are Gone. What’s Left?

This ad looks completely different now, doesn’t it? Image: Inside SoCal

With 11 alleged mistresses under his belt (and counting), Tiger Woods is drifting towards the bottom of a PR cesspool. CNN reported today that since November 29, no Tiger Woods commercials have appeared on primetime TV:

According to media tracker Nielsen, the last time a commercial featuring Tiger Woods appeared on television was Nov. 29. The 30-second Gillette ad aired during NBC’s “Football Night in America,” the pre-game show that broadcast prior to the Sunday night football game.

Since then, no Woods commercials have aired, not even over this past weekend during the Chevron World Challenge, the golf tournament hosted by Woods since 2001.

“Brands that planned to use Tiger in any meaningful way in the next few weeks would be looking to perhaps do something else, both out of respect for Tiger and because now isn’t the best time to have him out there peddling their product,” Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, told CNNMoney.com on Nov. 30.

Tiger’s sponsors, which include Gillette, Nike (NKE, Fortune 500), Gatorade and Electronic Arts (ERTS), have pledged their support of Woods and opted to retain the golfer as their spokesman, despite allegations of extramarital affairs and Woods’ recent admission of undisclosed “transgressions.” Other partners, including AT&T (T, Fortune 500), Tag Heuer and Accenture, have not issued comments about their sponsorship of Tiger.

Part of Tiger’s problem, according to Sporting News, is that his brand is built on integrity:

With (his unfailing integrity) platform possibly gone forever, image consultants say Woods and his handlers must now determine what he represents. Can he return as the consummate family man like Beckham, or will he go the route of Kobe Bryant and try to appeal to a younger, edgier demographic. Bryant, who in 2003 admitted infidelity and faced sexual assault charges that were later dismissed, swapped brands like Sprite and McDonald’s for Vitaminwater and Sony video games. Others suggest there’s an opportunity to create a new image and become a more fan-friendly everyman.

One aspect of the controversy that will be hard for sponsors to overcome is the exposure they’ve received. Besides being mentioned in thousands of stories, the Nike swoosh glowed white in a grainy image on TMZ.com that was purported to be Woods cuddling with a woman in Las Vegas. A newspaper story in the U.K. ran with the image of an iPhone and supposed racy text messages sent by Woods, who has a deal with AT&T. Tag Heuer and Accenture newspaper ads featuring Woods last week were widely mocked in the blogosphere.

One golfer suggested that Woods not follow the Nike slogan “Just Do It” in his personal life.

Woods’ agent has put a lot of energy into concealing the golfer’s personal life, according to the Wall Street Journal. In 2007, Woods representatives made a deal with the parent company of the National Enquirer to quash the story of an alleged affair, writes the Journal. Now that the sex kittens have come out of the bag, Tiger’s PR team continues to pursue a tight-lipped policy. What that strategy does to the Woods image remains to be seen.

Perhaps Sporting News put it best. In the long run, as long as Tiger continues to excel at golf, he has a shot at refurbishing his image.

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Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.